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Descriptive metrics for legal department workloads

What this blog defines as “descriptive metrics” are numbers that describe some aspect of the quality and quantity of work handled by a law department (See my post of Feb. 19, 2009: supervisory responsibility; Feb. 26, 2009: start of a series on such metrics; March 8, 2009: in-house lawyers; March 9, 2009: fee concentration with firm size and effective rate; March 11, 2009: management initiatives; March 26, 2009: degree of client reliance on the legal department.). Descriptive metrics are benchmarkable – you can compare your metrics to your peers’ – or they can create a profile of the department. My long-term goal is to develop a “fingerprint” of a law department through a set of descriptive metrics.

Specifying how hard in-house counsel and staff work ought to be fairly easy, but isn’t (See my post of Nov. 23, 2008: how hard it is to prove how hard internal lawyers are working.). The raw material may be available – matters and hours – but the proof remains difficult. Partly this is because administrative tasks detract from productive time (See my post of Oct. 30, 2005: admin time squeezing out other time.).

Descriptions of workloads start with matters (See my post of March 26, 2008: matters with 14 references.). With matters counted in a consistent way, you can depict legal departments in terms of matters per lawyer, types of matters, matters per practice group and other variations. Obviously complexity of matters deeply influences workload (See my post of Dec. 27, 2008: complexity of legal practice with 20 references.). I know of no unarguable way to quantify complexity.

Many descriptive metrics in the domain of workload consist of practice area benchmarks (See my post of Feb. 25, 2008: practice area benchmarks with 24 references;
Dec. 23, 2008: normalized lawsuits per million dollars of litigation spend; and Dec. 23, 2008: normalize between publicly-traded and private corporations.). Similarly, contract management software may generate workload metrics (See my post of Nov. 22, 2008: contract management software with 11 references.).

Internal time tracking allows many more descriptive metrics about workload (See my post of Nov. 22, 2008: internal time tracking with 16 references.).